An Experience of A Lifetime

Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA experience.

Language learning is all about practice. At first, I was quite nervous to speak German. I was afraid that I would make a mistake and no one would be able to understand me. But after a short time, I realized that I should not perceive my mistakes as failures, but rather as opportunities for growth in proficiency. By changing my perspective, I was able to overcome my fears and more actively engage in German conversations with my classmates, roommates, and locals. I began to notice significant improvement in my understanding, proficiency, and pronunciation of the language. I was surprised to learn that by the end of the first month, I was able to skip the B1.1 language level at the Goethe Institut! This experience surpassed all of my goals for language development and I cannot thank the Notre Dame community enough for making it possible.

Reflect on your SLA experience overall.

The SLA experience has changed my life forever and for the better. I noticed significant improvement in my pronunciation and proficiency of the German language; developed a greater understanding and appreciation for German politics, history, and culture; and made friends from all over the world. Not only that, but I learned that I could survive in a foreign country by myself and in my attempt to do so, I developed a greater understanding of and appreciation for immigrants all over the world. It takes incredible courage to leave everything and everyone that is familiar and adapt to a new land, culture, language, and laws in hopes for a better life.

I would encourage everyone to apply for the SLA Grant. The SLA Grant offers the unique opportunity to travel across the world to learn almost any language of interest with complete financial support from Notre Dame. Take advantage of it because such an opportunity is unlikely to recur.

How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future?

After my two months in Germany, I am still considering a career in International Law and Human Rights. Upon my return to campus, I will continue to take German language courses and participate in as many German-related extracurricular activities as possible. I also plan to give back to the Notre Dame German Department by tutoring younger students in German at the Center for Languages and Culture on campus. Furthermore, as an intended political science major, I plan to write a senior thesis that would require advanced language skills. The SLA experience has helped me navigate how I would like to continue my educational career both at Notre Dame and beyond. 

München: Meine Lieblingstadt!

Hands down, München (Munich) is now my new favorite city! Unfortunately, it also happens to be the most expensive city in Germany… but we will let that slide.

My mom and I arrived in München the evening, so we took a short walk to Marienplatz, the main city square. It was bustling with activity! In the photo below, you can see the “Neues Rathaus” or the “New Town Hall” on the right. Although the Rathaus looks like it was constructed in the Middle Ages, it was actually built in 1864 and continues to serve as the office building for the mayor, city council, and all city administration to this day.

Marienplatz, the main city square of München.

The next morning, my mom and I walked to the Viktualienmarkt, the 200-year-old and largest open air market in Germany. It offers an incredible array of fruits, chocolates, ice creams, beers, wines, meats, bread, and garden decorations. The picture below is of “Leo’s Obst Standl” or “Leo’s Fruit Stand.” I learned that in Bavarian German, anything with an “l” on the end of a noun, such as “Standl”, means that it is small.

Leo’s Fruit Stand in Viktualienmarkt

After visiting Viktualienmarkt, my mom and I started our bike tour of the city. It was a great introduction to the rich history and culture of München!

I learned that München was the birthplace of the Nazi Party. As we rode through the city, we were introduced to several important buildings to the movement. The buildings pictured below are the remains of the original Nazi Party headquarters located on Königplatz or “King’s Square.” The residents of München have since transformed these buildings into institutions that give back to society. For example, Hitler’s former office building is now a prestigious school for talented, young musicians.

Hitler’s Former Office Building in München
Former Nazi Financial Headquarters is located across the street from Hitler’s Office Building

We also visited one of the top universities in Germany, Ludwig-Maximilian University of München!

Ludwig-Maximilian University of München

Ludwig-Maximilian University is renowned for its heroic students Hans and Sophie Scholl. In fact, there is a small museum inside dedicated to their memory! During WWII, the siblings helped organize the White Rose resistance group. They wrote, printed, and distributed over 6,000 copies of anti-Nazi propaganda leaflets across Europe. Unfortunately, these siblings were betrayed by the school janitor after passing leaflets throughout the school, arrested, and put to death in February of 1943. But their incredible story of courage and persistence lives on. It serves as a reminder that if we believe in something, we should fight for it, even if it means we must fight alone. Ludwig-Maximilian University is very proud to have been their alma mater.

Memorial for students Hans and Sophie Scholl outside of Ludwig-Maximilian University

After visiting Ludwig-Maximilian University, we stopped for lunch at the Chinesischer Turm beer garden located within one of the largest urban parks in the world — Englisher Garten! In fact, Englischer Garten is larger than Central Park in New York City!

Chinesischer Turm beer garden in München’s Englischer Garten.

After lunch, we had the opportunity to watch river surfing! Our tour guide informed us that people have been surfing the Eisbach river in Englischer Garten since the early 1970s. This was the first time I had ever seen anyone surf, so of course I was very excited!

River Surfing in Englischer Garten

München offers an incredible variety of things to do and its rich history makes the city all the more interesting. I would love to return someday!

Füßen: A Bavarian Beauty

Love snow-covered mountains, turquoise-colored lakes, and enthralling, romantic castles?! Well, Füßen is the German city for you (and me)!

My mom was able to take off time from work to come visit me, which was an incredible blessing. We rented a car and journeyed south on the famous Romantic Road to the Bavarian city of Füßen. Naturally, we took a few unexpected detours and ended up driving on the Autobahn +! Cars were flying by us! The terrain was mainly flat or slightly hill until we reached the Austria-Germany. Rocky mountains loomed in the distance. It was beautiful. Of course, I had to take a picture!

Driving to Füßen

Füßen is over 700 years old and located on the Germany-Austria border. Its close proximity to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles has allowed the town to become a popular tourist attraction.

We only had 24 hours in Füßen so we prioritized our time with tours of Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle.

Hohenschwangau Castle

Walking up to Hohenschwangau Castle

Hohenschwangau Castle was first built in the 12th century and ruled by the Knights of Schwangau until the 1535 when the castle was destroyed. But in 1832 Crown Prince Maximilian II decided to rebuild the castle. His two sons Ludwig II and Otto spent their childhood here.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside the castle. But the decor was unbelievable. Every inch of the castle was decorated with centuries old paintings and enclosed in an elegant gold trim. Each royal family member had their own floor of the house that was decorated according the duties and responsibilities of their title. For example, the King’s floor was decorated with paintings of the knighting of a king, winning a glorious battle for the homeland, and wooing beautiful women to become his wife. The children’s quarters were on the top floor, the king’s quarters on the floor below, and the queen’s quarters were below the king’s.

There is a reason for the famous phrase, “Be careful what you say! The walls have ears!” Hohenschwangau has hidden passageways leading to every room! These passageways were used by servants during the winter months to light all furnaces in the house. The royal family did not want be disturbed with the frequent relighting of furnaces, so they designed these passageways to prevent the servants from being seen. But, from within these passageways servants could learn about all the royal family drama!

View of Hohenschwangau Castle from Neuschwanstein Castle


Neuschwanstein Castle

Nestled high in the Alps, this world-famous castle was originally built for only one person: King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The intention was to make a more beautiful and comfortable castle than that of his childhood home, Hohenschwangau Castle.

View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Hohenschwangau Castle

Unfortunately photography was also prohibited inside Neuschwanstein castle. But the exquisite detail of every woodcarving and painting and the advanced was absolutely astounding. The tour guide informed us that fourteen carpenters worked for more than four years on just the woodwork in the King’s bedroom!

But as the tour continued, it became more and more clear why the Bavarian people often referred to their king as “Mad King Ludwig.” For example, we were led into an enormous room decorated with a balcony, mosaic wall paintings, patterned wood flooring, and glass chandeliers. At first, I thought it was a ballroom, a chance for the king to share his fairytale castle with the outside world. But I was wrong. In reality, this “ballroom” was designed as only a room for King Ludwig to sit alone and think!

Despite 17 years of construction, most of castle still remains unfinished. After the death of King Ludwig II in nearby Lake Starnberg on June 13th, 1886, all construction on the castle ceased.

Neuschwanstein Castle


What an amazing trip! I learned so much about Bavarian history in just 24 hours! Next stop, München!

America: The Deutsch Perspective

What do Germans think of the United States? Will I be welcomed or rejected because I am American?

Crowds in Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof (main city train station)

These were two questions that circled through my mind as I prepared for my two-month language immersion adventure in Germany. Throughout my time here, I have asked several Germans of all different ages and backgrounds of their opinion of the United States. Here are some of their responses:

Teenage Germans

I recently met a group of 19-year-old young women and men who had just finished their high school exams! After introducing ourselves, they expressed their desire to travel to the USA. One girl explained that she dreams of visiting New York and San Francisco, but has not yet had the opportunity. She says, “There are so many things to do and see in the United States — and I want to do them all!”

In addition, I also met an 18-year-old woman on the train to Frankfurt and asked her where she was going. Coincidentally, she said she was flying to the United States for a two-week vacation! In fact, she was actually flying to Minneapolis, Minnesota — my home state! She was super excited and I was excited for her!

As our conversation continued, she explained that the German youth are fascinated by the United States. “It is so far away and so spread out. In Europe, countries are relatively close together. It is incomprehensible to us that you cannot go from Minnesota to California for a weekend trip.” But, she explained that President Trump is also a hot topic for German youth. By the tone of her voice, it was clear that from her perspective the majority of German youth did not view Trump very highly.

Middle-Age Germans

An early thirty-year-old woman I met on the streets of Schwäbisch Hall explained that the United States is a big, beautiful country and the people are very friendly and welcoming. However, she believes that President Trump is not helping to stabilize the country’s national and international relations because of the inconsistency of his policies.

Elderly Germans

I also interviewed an elderly man and woman. The man stated that he had never been to the United States, so he could not express an opinion on the nature of the American people or the environment of the country. But the woman had visited New York once and exclaimed that there is so much to do and see. She was also very surprised at how willing the Americans were to help her navigate the big city.

Nevertheless, both agreed that President Trump does not present the USA well to other nations. The woman exclaimed that, “He says one thing and then a few days later he changes his mind to have the opposite stance on the same political issue!”

Finally Reunited After 10 Years Apart

Who knew you could meet up with your grade school best friend after 10 years apart on another continent?! Although Augusta and I were only in school together for the fourth grade, we were inseparable. Unfortunately, we lost touch after fourth grade as both of our families moved from South Bend to Minnesota and Tennessee. But earlier this summer, I saw on Facebook that she was going to be in France for the summer doing a similar language immersion program for Pennsylvania State University. So, I messaged her to see if she would like to get together and I am so glad she said yes!

She came to visit me in Schwäbisch Hall for three days and we had a blast! I signed us up for a walking tour of town. The tour was all in German, so I translated for her. With only having one year of German language study completed, I was surprised by how much I could understand about complex historical events! Gus also loved experiencing the authentic, German tour of the town.

Gus and I on a bridge above River Kocher in Schwäbisch Hall

After our tour, we went to the town farmer’s market in the main square, Marktplatz. And you will never guess what we found! (see photo)

Notre Dame fan at the Schwäbisch Hall farmer’s market!

This was extra special for both of us because the last time we saw each other was in South Bend ten years ago!


We also walked to the local Kloster Großcomburg or “Big Kloster Comburg”, which is about 2.5 km from Schwäbisch Hall. Großcomburg was founded in 1078 as a Benedictine monastery. Between 1802 and 1947 it served as the headquarters for the Royal Württemberg Honorary Corps of Invalids. Since 1947, Großcomburg has remained a place of academic training for teachers working at schools in Baden-Württemburg.

View of Kloster Großcomburg from valley below

As we walked the large wall that surrounds Kloster Großcomburg, we were able to see the smaller Kloster or “Kleincomburg” on the other side of the valley. Kleincomburg is approximately 20 years younger than Großcomburg and has been used as a convent, hospital, and a center for persons against the Protestant Reformation. In 1877, Kleincombug was bought by Baden-Württemburg and has since been used as an administrative branch for the Prison of Schwäbisch Hall.

Inside Kloster Großcomburg
Augusta and I walked this wall around Kloster Großcomburg.  We were able to see Kleincomburg through the lookout windows.


We also ventured into the German countryside to explore the Hohenloher Freiland Museum that showcases rural life in Germany! The small village of Wackershofen was transformed into a museum because of its rich history and culture.

Entering Hohenloher Freiland Museum
Visiting the Hohenloher Freiland Museum — the Museum of Rural Life in Germany!

The structure of the rural homes in Wackershofen were fascinating to us. The horses, pigs, and other animals were kept in stables on the ground floor and the living quarters for family was above. How convenient!

Village home in Wackershofen. Animal stables are located on the ground floor and the house above.
Another village home in Wackershofen.
Found the bathroom!

The museum extended to a house at the top a large hill called Käshof. During the mid 1900s, Käshof was owned by Wilhelmine and Gottlieb Kaiser of whom in the fall of 1944 had courageously welcomed into their home three persons who had been wandering throughout Germany seeking safety. These three persons were Jewish father Max Rosenfelder and his daughter Ilse, as well as Nazi Wermacht deserter Willi Bruchhausen. Max, Ilse, and Willi spent most of their time in the house in hiding. However, Max and Willi were forced to flee to woods nearby when Nazi Wehrmacht soldiers invaded Wackershofen. Ilse remained in hiding the house until a sister of the Red Cross reported her and she had to flee to Augsburg. But thanks to the unbelievable courage of the Kaiser family, all three survived the war. This museum opened my eyes to the harrowing reality of the Holocaust. But people like the Kaisers serve as a continual reminder that even in the darkest of times, hope remains and can overcome.

Road to Käshof
Käshof home where the Kaiser family housed two Jews and one Nazi Wehrmacht deserter during WWII.
View of Wackershofen village from Käshof

Let’s Celebrate! : Holidays Unique to Schwäbisch Hall

Before living in the Schwäbisch Hall, I never knew salt could be so important! Schwäbisch Hall is often referred to as “die Stadt des Salzes” or “the City of Salt.” In fact, in old German the word “Hall” means salt! Salt has been critical to the development of Schwäbisch Hall for the past 2,000 years. Salt was the “white gold” of the Middle Ages and Schwäbisch Hall’s easy access to a nearby salt spring allowed it to become a wealthy, free imperial city during the Middle Ages. Now, most of the town’s traditional holidays reflect the importance of salt to the community!

Kuchen und Brunnenfest: The Chicken Saves the Town!

Legend has it that without the cockcrow of a chicken, the town of Schwäbisch Hall would not exist. In 1316, the town mill unexpectedly caught on fire. But thanks to cockcrow of a chicken trying to escape the burning mill, the saltstimmers nearby were able to immediately take action to save the mill and Schwäbisch Hall. Out of gratitude for their courageous acts, it is said that the miller baked the saltstimmers a 100 pound cake. The saltstimmers decorated the cake with garland and carried it to the fountains of Schwäbisch Hall to dance and sing traditional songs around them. This was especially significant because all the fountains in Schwäbisch Hall were, and still are, fed by salt water.

Since 1785, more than 500 people participate in the annual reenactment of this story on Pentecost. This reenactment is called “Kuchen und Brunnenfest” or “Cakes and Fountains Festival.”

The following are photos of the festival provided by my teacher Ulli Blogas at Goethe Institute:

Townspeople reenacting the rush to save the salt mill from the fire.
Dancing traditional Swabian dances in the main town square.

If are interested in seeing a video of this historic festival, please click on the link below. This video was made by a Schwäbisch Hall Unicorn football player from Portland, Oregon, of whom I had the opportunity to meet at Goethe.

After the historic reenactment, visitors enjoy the festival’s amusement park, city tours, exhibitions, and live music.



On October 14th, Schwäbisch Hall celebrates salt! This day is called “Salztage” or “Day of Salt” and offers a live demonstration of how salt was produced by the Celts in Schwäbisch Hall during the Middle Ages and of course, lots of food and drinks.

During the Middle Ages, salt water was drawn from Haalbrunnen spring on Haalplatz (Salt Square) in town and then transported to a mill nearby, such as the outdoor mill pictured above. The salt water was then boiled in iron pans until most of the water had evaporated, leaving the salt behind.

This is the historic Haalbrunnen fountain. It is now in the middle of a parking lot in the center of Schwäbisch Hall.
Salt water flowing from Haalbrunnen fountain.
Site of outdoor mill where saline water boiling demonstrations take place during Salztage.
In the Middle Ages, iron pans such as this were used to boil salt water, forcing the water to evaporate and leaving the salt behind.

This salt was then sold in large markets in Speyer, Germany; Strasbourg, France; and Basel, Switzerland for great profits. In 1924, salt production in Schwäbisch Hall stopped as the town transitioned into a salt spa and resort town.

This is Hohenlohe Hotel, where the town resort’s salt baths and caves are located.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Stepping Into A Medieval Fairytale!

On the first day of school, 60-year-old Rosane from Brazil, 30-year-old Ruth from Florida, and 19-year-old I started talking and from that moment on, we did everything together. An example would be our trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Germany!

Zentraler Platz of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Medieval Charm of Rothenburg!

Rothenburg is only 55 km northeast of Schwäbisch Hall, so Rosane rented a car for our journey. Rosane had requested an automatic car, but was surprised to find that morning that the car rental only had manual stick-shift cars available. In addition, Rosane cannot speak English, so if we were lost we could only use German, our one mutual language and the language which we were all trying to learn. Thankfully, we were able to successfully navigate the winding countryside roads and the Autobahn — even if it did include a few detours!

The first activity we did in Rothenburg ob der Tauber was walk the famous town wall so that we could have an aerial view of the city before exploring its streets. The wall is 2.5 miles long and was constructed in the 12th century to protect its wealth and status as an important, imperial town. Around 45% of the wall was destroyed in World War II, but the citizens rebuilt it and it is now considered one of the town’s great achievements of recent history. As you can see from the pictures below, the view is spectacular!

View from Rothenburg Wall
Walking the Wall
View of Wall

Among Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s most popular attractions are its elaborate Christmas shops! They sell an unbelievable variety of Christmas ornaments, nativity sets, German cuckoo clocks, tablecloths, and even tissues! But as you can see from the picture below, it is only a browsing place for college students!

This small Rothenburg Christmas shop squirrel ornament is 87,95 Euros or $102.90!

And of course, when in Rothenburg one must try the signature town dessert — Schneeballen or “Snowballs”! Fortunately, they are not hard for visitors to find as there is a Schneeball store on almost every street! Schneeballen have gained popularity across the world (even in South Korea!), but are said to have originated in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Original Schneeballen are short-crust pastry folded into a ball, deep-fried, and then dusted with powdered sugar. Schneeballen were originally made for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and church ceremonies. Today, Schneeballen can be coated with a large variety of frostings ranging from chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, hazelnut, lemon and strawberry and then topped with all different kinds of nuts and seeds.

Trying the Original Schneeball!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is truly a medieval, fairytale! I would love to go back someday!

Guten Appetit! : Traditional Foods of Germany and the Swabia Region

Eating out is major social activity in Germany. But warning – do not eat out if you have things to do! The typical 30-45 minute activity in the United States is actually prolonged to 1-2 hours! Once you sit down at a restaurant table, that table is yours for the evening.

At home, I work as a waitress so naturally dining was one of the first significant cultural differences I noticed between the United States and Germany. American waiters and waitresses are instructed to keep the customers coming and going at a rapid pace, continually checking to see if customers need anything else to eat or the bill. But in Germany, it is completely the opposite. German waiters and waitresses rarely check on their customers, unless their customers signal them with a wave to come over. I really enjoy this philosophy of dining because it enhances the purpose of eating out: to enjoy good conversation with family and friends in a fun, vibrant atmosphere.

Each region of Germany has its own traditional food. I am currently living in the Swabia region on the borders of counties Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in Southern Germany (see map below). The three major traditional foods of Swabia are Maultaschen, Käsespätzle, and the Swabian Brezeln.

Map of Swabia Region (Photo Credits:


Maultaschen (Aka. “Fooling the Dear Lord”!)

There’s a reason another name for Maultaschen is “Herrgottsb’ scheisserle” or “Fooling the Dear Lord”! Legend has it that the Roman Catholic Cistercian monks of Maulbronn Monastery of western Swabia received a large gift of meat during the famine of early 17th century.

Unfortunately, they received this gift during Lent, the Catholic 40-day fast when meat is forbidden from consumption. However, the Maulbronn Monastery cook did not want to waste such a large portion of meat, so the cook ground the meat,
mixed in herbs and spinach, and wrapped small portions of this meat in dough to conceal the sinful act of meat-eating during Lent from God.

In Schwäbisch Hall, almost every restaurant offers Maultaschen. It is a local and traditional favorite, very filling, easy to make, and tastes great (tested and confirmed)! If you would like to make Maultaschen, here are the ingredients:

3 eggs
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour

1 pound spinach, cooked, chopped, and drained
1 cup cooked ground pork
1 onion, grated
4 slices white bread with crust
1/2 cup milk or water
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg
4 eggs
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Homemade Maultaschen!


Käsespätzle – “Schwäbisch Mac and Cheese”

Homemade German egg noodles, rich Emmentaler Swiss cheese, topped with caramelized onions?! For generations, Swabians have said, “Yes, please!” Since it is such a popular dish here in Schwäbisch Hall, I decided to enroll in a class to learn how to make it. This Swabian specialty has relatively few ingredients, but it does require some muscle power to make!

First, melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a pan and add two chopped, large onions. Let them rest for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be brown when ready. While the onions are cooking, the German egg noodles (Spätzle) can be made. To make Spätzle, you will need following ingredients: plain flour, eggs, butter, salt, and water. Instead of kneading the dough, it is stirred until holes in the dough are visible. Then, place the dough, portion by portion, into a Spätzle press (yes, there is such a thing!) over a pot of boiling water and pump the dough through the Spätzle press into the boiling water below. This press creates the short, thick noodles characteristic of Spätzle. Then, let the noodles boil for several minutes.

Next, add one third of the Spätzle to an empty dish, grate one third of Emmentaler Swiss cheese on the Spätzle, and then one third of the caramelized onions. Repeat this process until all Spätzle, cheese, and onions are in the dish. And just like that, your Käsespätzle is ready!

Homemade Käsespätzle


Swabian Brezeln vs. Bavarian Brezeln

Germans love bread. In Schwäbisch Hall alone, there is a bakery or cafe on almost every street and almost all have Swabian pretzels. Recently, a few other Goethe students and I went to a bakery in town to learn how to make Swabian Brezeln or Pretzels. This bakery, Bäckerei Renner, has been owned and operated by the same family in Schwäbisch Hall for 143 years! What a great family tradition!

Outside of the 143-year-old Bäckerei Renner
Inside Bäckerei Renner








Swabian pretzels are almost the same as Bavarian pretzels. The only differences are that the ends of Bavarian pretzels are thick, whereas the ends of Swabian are skinny and Bavarians use only lard to make their Brezeln, whereas Swabians use lard and butter, making the Swabian pretzel much fattier.

Although both pretzels can be eaten alone, Bavarians prefer to eat their pretzels in with Weißwurst (veal sausage) and mustard, while Swabians typically slice their pretzels like a bagel and spread butter on them.

These are the Swabian Brezeln we made, ready to go in the oven.
Bavarian Brezel

Willkommen in Deutschland!

After a week and a half, I still cannot believe I am here! For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by German culture, history, and language. I dreamed of exploring the German countryside, visiting historical monuments and museums, tasting traditional foods, and speaking the German language. When I first stepped off the plane in Munich, I was extremely excited! My dream was finally becoming a reality!

This week was a lot of firsts: first time using public transportation by myself, first week of classes, and first time eating traditional German food. 


In order to arrive at my new home of Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, I had to take a bus from the Munich airport to the city Hauptbahnhof (main train station), a train north to Nuremberg, a connecting train from Nuremberg to Schwäbisch Hall – Hessental, and finally a bus from Schwäbisch Hall – Hessental to Schwäbisch Hall.

I am not going to lie — I was quite nervous! There is very little public transportation in my hometown in rural Minnesota. I have only used it three or four times in my life and always with my family. And now, I would use more trains and buses alone in one day than I had ever used in my life!

Despite my initial uncertainties, I am glad to say, with the help of locals, I made it to Schwäbisch Hall! The Deutsche Bahn train system is fascinating to me because it reflects my perception of German punctuality. Trains are frequent and almost always on time. If an individual reserves a seat on the train, there is an electronic sign above his or her Sitzplatz or seat that identifies where he or she is going. For example, the electronic sign above my Sitzplatz read “Munich to Nuremberg” and the sign above the people across the aisle read “Munich to Hanover.” Everything is organized until the very last detail.

Munich Hauptbahnhof


Schwäbisch Hall is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It has approximately 37,000 residents and, unlike many German cities, was largely spared from World War II destruction. For this reason, many buildings retain their traditional Fachwerk style, as shown on the buildings on the right in the photo below. The streets are quaint, colorful, and historical, with cafes located nearly on every corner. Everyday it seems as though I am walking through a fairytale!

View of Schwäbisch Hall, Germany at sunset


The Goethe Institut of German language study is only a seven minute walk from my Studentenwohnung (student apartment). Breakfast begins at 7:15AM and classes last from 8:30AM-1:00PM, Monday through Friday. After class, we all share lunch together in the Goethe Cafeteria and try to incorporate new vocabulary and grammar into our conversations.

One of my favorite things about Goethe is its diversity of people. Though my class is only nine people, we represent Taiwan, Russia, Brazil, Algeria, Italy, and the United States. To the surprise of many, German is the only common language we share. It forces everyone to use German at all times, rather than referring to an alternative English translation when something is misunderstood. My teacher is excellent as she is the main vehicle for our understanding of each other and course material.

I am surprised by how much I am learning, not only about the German language, but also about local Schwäbisch culture and traditions. Everyday I only look forward to learning more!

Goethe Institut of Schwäbisch Hall


Earlier this week, I visited the Hällisch-Fränkisches Museum, the city’s history and culture museum. I learned that Schwäbisch Hall was founded in 12th century by the Celts, but was later destroyed by the fire of 1728. Schwäbisch Hall was immediately rebuilt and emerged as the city with the largest salt production and trade industry in all of southwest Germany. In fact, the Celtic word “hall” means salt!

In addition, I also joined the local gym Fair Fitness. It is reasonably priced and only a seven minute walk from my Studentenwohnung (student apartment). I have met several locals and enjoying watching German news as I workout. It has also been a great way to stay active and learn about German exercise culture. Two things that I have learned: many gyms do not have AC and always bring a towel. Fair Fitness does not provide towels and with no AC, the machines can become quite sweaty!